GREENVILLE, N.C. - No. 23 Ole Miss held off a comeback attempt by Indiana on Sunday to win its 10th straight game and claim the Keith LeClair Classic title.
The Rebels jumped out to an early lead before the Hoosiers fought back to knot the game at five in the sixth. But Ole Miss responded resoundingly with four runs in the seventh, highlighted by clutch hits from Justin Bench and Kevin Graham to reclaim the lead en route to a 9-5 victory.
Derek Diamond turned in yet another strong start early in his career, going 5.0 innings with two runs allowed on three hits with two walks and two strikeouts. Braden Forsyth came through with his second save in as many games and his fourth of the season.
Offensively, the Rebels were paced by a 4-for-4 day from Tyler Keenan, as well as home runs from Graham and Hayden Dunhurst.
Diamond issued a leadoff walk to Indiana's Drew Ashley, but the Hoosier designated hitter didn't make it past first. The Rebel starter sandwiched two strikeouts around a flyout for a clean first frame.
Anthony Servideo sparked the Ole Miss offense in the bottom half of the first with a leadoff double. Then Keenan, in similar fashion to Friday's game, launched a two-run home run to right field to give the Rebels the early 2-0 edge.
Diamond kept rolling with three groundouts for a 1-2-3 inning in the second. He issued one free pass in the third, but a 5-4-3 double play erased that and ended the frame.
The Rebels added one in the third after a leadoff single by Servideo. The Ole Miss shortstop then advanced to second on a wild pitch before wheeling all the way home from second on another wild pitch to give the Rebels a 3-0 bump. A Peyton Chatagnier walk and a Keenan base hit to right put runners at the corners with nobody out, but Indiana quelled the rally with a double play as Chatagnier was thrown out at the plate trying to tag on a shallow fly ball from Cael Baker.
Indiana fought back in the fourth with solo home runs by Grant Richardson and Jordan Fucci to cut the Rebel lead to one.
Ole Miss wasted little time getting those two runs back in the bottom half of the fourth. Kevin Graham started it with a deep fly ball that sailed over Richardson's outstretched glove in center, and Hayden Dunhurst did the rest, demolishing a home run to right field to make it a 5-2 Rebel lead.
In the fifth, Diamond settled back in, putting together a 1-2-3 inning to close out another strong start in his young career.
Benji Gilbert relieved Diamond in the sixth and saw mixed results. The freshman left-hander allowed two hits but also struck out two before checking out with two down in the inning. Logan Savell checked in for Gilbert and hit one batter before walking another to bring in a run. Taylor Broadway took the reins from there, but Indiana's Cooper Trinkle blooped a ball that snuck just inside of the left field line to tie the game at five.
The Hoosiers threatened again in the seventh, placing runners at the corners with two outs after a hit-by-pitch and a single, but Broadway worked out of it with a flyball out to center.
The Rebel offense exploded for four runs in the bottom of the seventh. A Chatagnier walk and Keenan single started the ball rolling, and Justin Bench came through with a clutch two-out single up the middle on a 1-2 count to plate two. Then Kevin Graham lifted his first home run of the season over the wall in right center to make it a 9-5 Rebel advantage.
With runners at the corners and two outs in the eighth, Ole Miss turned to its closer to get out of the jam. Forsyth pounded the zone and got ahead in the count, but he still needed a spectacular play from Keenan, who skied and snagged a line drive for the final out of the inning. Forsyth allowed a one-out single to right in the ninth, but he then induced a game-ending 4-6-3 double play.
Ole Miss returns to Swayze Field this week for a four-game homestand, starting Tuesday against Memphis. The Rebels and Tigers are set for a 6:30 p.m. CT first pitch on SEC Network+.
- Ole Miss improved to 10-1 on the season and extended its winning streak to 10 games.
- Ole Miss won its first three games of the season away from home for the first time since 2016 when the Rebels swept the Chanticleer Classic at Coastal Carolina. The Rebels were also ranked No. 13 at the time and had to go through a ranked tournament host (No. 18 CCU).
- Tyler Keenan and Hayden Dunhurst each hit their third home run of the season, moving them into a tie for third on the team charts behind Anthony Servideo (4) and Cael Baker (4).
- Keenan hit his second home run of the weekend.
- Kevin Graham became the ninth Rebel to hit a home run this season.
- All three Rebel starters lasted 5.0 innings or more for the third straight weekend. The 2019 rotation accomplished this feat just twice all of last season.
- For the weekend, the Rebel starting pitchers averaged more than 5.0 IP with 4 H, 1.7 R, 1.3 ER, 1.3 BB, 5.3 K and had a collective 2.22 ERA with a 0.99 WHIP.
- Anthony Servideo notched his team-best sixth multi-hit game of the season. - Tyler Keenan recorded his fourth multi-hit game of the year, second only to Keenan.